Tuesday, December 7, 2021

White Dwarf: Issue #19

Issue #19 of White Dwarf (June/July 1980) features a wonderfully creepy cover illustration by Les Edwards, which I am certain I have seen before – perhaps several times. Unfortunately, my memory isn't what it used to be and I can't quite recall where else I might have gazed upon its magnificence. If any reader's brain is less addled than mine, I'd appreciate a helpful reminder. 

Ian Livingstone's opening editorial suggests that White Dwarf is doing well and so firmly established in the UK gaming scene that newcomers to it are seeking out back issues. However, he notes that many of these early issues are no longer in print and that, "due to recent increased printing costs," it is not economically feasible to reprint them. Instead, Games Workshop would soon be releasing two compendiums of material derived from early issues, one focusing on articles and one on scenarios. Relatedly, the same increased costs had necessitated a rise in the price of WD – 75p instead of 60p – though four more pages had been added in compensation.

The issue kicks off with Trevor Graver's "Criminals" for Traveller, which presents alternate careers for use with GDW's science fiction RPG. It's a good article in my opinion, though its career format is closer to that of Mercenary than the three little black books of 1977. That's not a damning criticism by any means, but I retain a preference for "basic" character generation over the "advanced" ones presented in later books. More interesting is its approach to ranks, which here are reimagined as "reputation" and map onto the criminal character's notoriety in the galactic underworld (and his worth as a bounty). 

"The Fiend Factory" continues, this time under the editorship of Albie Fiore. Don Turnbull, who originated the column, recently left White Dwarf to take up his duties as head of the new TSR UK. Fiore presents five new monsters, including two varieties of undead horses (one skeletal and one zombie-like). Elsewhere, Stephen Marsh and John Sapienza are the authors of a RuneQuest mini-scenario entitled "Jorthan's Rescue." The scenario concerns a wealthy noble, the titular Jorthan, who has been kidnapped by trollkin and whose wife hires the characters to bring him back alive. Intriguingly, the scenario includes two different versions of the map of the trollkin's lair, one more complex than the other, depending on the needs of the referee. I can't recall ever seeing a scenario that did something like this before, though, as I said at the start of this post, my memory isn't what it used to be.

Roger E. Moore, who would one day go on to be editor-in-chief of TSR's own Dragon magazine, has written "Berserker," a new character class for use with Dungeons & Dragons. The class is very similar in broad outline to the barbarian class we'd later see in D&D's Third Edition, with a focus on "battle lust," which empowers the berserkers attacks. Also included is an option for "berserker clerics" dedicated to appropriate gods of war or physical prowess. Intriguingly, there's a brief discussion of lycanthropic berserkers, no doubt due to the influence of the "bear-shirts" of Norse legend. Over the years, I've vacillated wildly in my feelings about additional and alternate character classes. These days, I'm much more well inclined toward them, which no doubt colors my generally positive opinion of this article.

"Ogre Hunt" by Tom Keenes is a mini-scenario for use with Chivalry & Sorcery. It's a pretty straightforward adventure, consisting of a brief wilderness journey to find the ruined tower where Moribund the Ogre dwells. Said ogre is terrorizing the countryside and so Lady Cynthia is offering a reward to anyone who can slay him. There adventure is nothing special in itself, but I appreciate seeing something written for C&S, a game for which I have an odd fondness, despite never having played it. "Open Box" presents five reviews, starting with Task Force's Starfire (8 out of 10) and Avalon Hill's Magic Realm (7 out of 10). Also reviewed are High Fantasy and Fortress Ellendar (4 and 7 out of 10 respectively). as well as Kinunir for Traveller (9 out of 10).

"Wards" by Lewis Pulsipher is a short article on magical barriers erected by magic-users to protect valuable locations and objects. Pulsipher offers four examples of such wards, including the spells needed to create them. Though brief, it's a clever idea and the kind of thing I appreciate seeing, namely an addition to D&D that doesn't require any new rules, only a repurposing of existing ones. "Treasure Chest" takes an unusual turn by presenting ten different NPCs for use with D&D. Most of them aren't all that special to my mind, but a few, like Fred, Bill, and Charly, a trio of troublesome and reckless fighting men rise above the pack. The issue closes with Chris Harvey's look at the computer moderated postal wargame, Starweb. Articles like this are time capsules of a very specific era, when the computer was a strange new technology and no one quite new what to make of them. 

Issue #19 was a fine one. White Dwarf has truly begun to hit its stride. Bring on issue #20!


  1. While I don't have it on hand to check, I'm fairly certain the 'ghoul crawling out from the underworld' image also appeared in the color plates of the hardcover 3rd edition of the Call of Cthulhu codebook. My first exposure to that game, but certainly not my last.

    1. That's it! Thank you. I knew I'd seen it somewhere else before, but couldn't quite place it.

      Thanks again.

    2. I saw the picture in Charles Dexter Ward's cover some years ago. It was published in an economy italian edition

  2. It's also in the color plates of my Cthulhu 4th edition softcover.

  3. Yes, as Unknown says, it was later used as one of the colour plates of the Games Workshop edition of Call of Cthulhu.

    It had been bouncing around quite a bit before that:

    "A Hamlyn book cover for a novel by Mark Ronson. I felt at the time, and still do I suppose, that this was something of a break-through painting for me, because, for the first time, I abandoned the use of photographic reference and relied solely on my imagination. Also used on the Atlas video cover of Eddie Romero's film Twilight People and on a French paperback cover. It was also used on an early edition of White Dwarf. See the Prelims Gallery for the original sketch. "

    1. "... I abandoned the use of photographic reference and relied solely on my imagination."

      What, no live model, Mister Pickman? :)

  4. I wasn't gaming at this time (my first WD was issue 27), but I remember Ogre Hunt from the Best of White Dwarf Scanarios, one of the compilations you mention.

    It intrigued me - we were used to everlasting megadungeons with Holmes D&D. The idea of a simple hunt for a single monster as and adventure intrigued me greatly. When C&S 2nd edition came out - as I learnt from ads in White Dwarf - I took the plunge. I loved it.

    I still haven't run or played Ogre Hunt. But, since last I commented on this blog, I have becomne a member of the design team for C&S 5th Edition.

    I'm running C&S 5E for my youngest and one of his school friends - I think I may adapt Ogre Hunt to the modern rules and finally play the scenario that first got me interested in C&S.

  5. As part of my own RuneQuest campaign, I dug out Jorthan's Rescue and added it the scenarios and adventures which the Player Characters were involved in in the Apple Lane area. Afterwards, I contacted the authors to see if it could be updated as part of the Jonstown Compendium. Surprisingly, I was given permission to do so ( I was not looking to do it myself), and the resulting adventure, Jorthan's Rescue Redux is available. And James, if you want a review copy, happy to supply it!


  6. "The issue closes with Chris Harvey's look at the computer moderated postal wargame, Starweb. Articles like this are time capsules of a very specific era, when the computer was a strange new technology and no one quite new what to make of them."

    It was an odd point in history, wasn't it? I was always fascinated by The Space Gamer's fairly heavy coverage of play by mail games in this era, even though I never really played any of the big ones. Starweb, Tribes of Crane, Starmaster, Beyond the Stellar Empire, Universe, Lords of Valetia - they all sounded mysterious and cool to younger me, something I've never quite shaken off.